New Mexico stands out among states in the US for its progressive drone laws. In 2015, the state legislature passed a law making it legal to use drones for photography, as long as the operator does not invade someone's privacy. This makes New Mexico one of the most drone-friendly states in the country.
That said, regulators such as the Federal Aviation Authority(FAA) have strict guidelines that drone owners MUST adhere to if they want to operate drones safely and legally.
This post looks at drone laws in New Mexico that drone pilots need to consider before liftoff.
Yes, you can be arrested for flying a drone in New Mexico. However, this will only happen if you’re caught disregarding state and federal laws about flying drones.
As long as you operate your drone within the set federal and state laws, you can fly your drone in New Mexico commercially or as a hobby without fear of arrest.
Fortunately, other than federal laws, which you have to observe while flying a drone in any US state, New Mexico’s drone flying laws are some of the least stringent.
Regardless of where you are in the US, federal laws will always trample local and state laws. So, even before looking at your state drone flying rules, you should be well aware of national guidelines to observe.
While most federal laws apply to both recreational and commercial drone pilots, there are specific requirements that only apply to one or the other, as we’ll see below.
It’s critical that you first understand who is recognized as a recreational drone flyer. According to the FAA, a recreational drone pilot is one who’s only doing it for fun or personal enjoyment.
If you’re a recreational drone pilot, some of the laws you MUST adhere to include:
Commercial flights are more regulated than recreational flights. But before we get to the regulations, let’s first understand which flights are considered commercial.
The most obvious are flights meant to create products or collect data for paying clients. However, commercial doesn’t necessarily mean there’s monetary compensation involved.
For instance, drone flights for the following purposes are considered to be commercial flights:
With that in mind, here are the rules to observe if you’re a commercial drone flyer:
If you need any restrictions for commercial drone flight, other than the weight requirement, waived, you’ll need to submit and receive the FAA’s Part 107 waiver.
While some laws affect recreational and commercial drone flyers differently, most federal regulations are meant to be observed by all drone pilots, regardless of their reason to fly. These general laws include:
Flying drones over forests and wildlife are also regulated, as you can find in this publication by the US Forest Service under the United States Department of Agriculture.
The local drone laws in New Mexico are not as stringent as you’ll find in some other states. Still, there are some regulations you need to keep in mind when operating a drone in the state. Specifically, New Mexico has two main state laws for drone pilots to observe. The two are:
A special exception from the second law can be granted for those using drones for management purposes.
Other than these two, the other local jurisdictions in New Mexico are yet to establish their legislature on drone use.
Lastly, operating drones within National Parks in New Mexico is now prohibited as it is in the rest of the country.
Flying a drone without a license or without registering it are both criminal offenses, each carrying a fine of up to $250,000 and three years of imprisonment.
Flying over restricted airspace attracts a fine of up to $100,000 while surveilling individuals or institutions without their consent attracts a fine of $500 and 6 months or less of imprisonment.
These fines are different depending on the law you break and are subject to change.
Before flying a drone in New Mexico, it’s imperative that you first seek to understand every state guideline. That way, you’ll know where and when you can fly a drone and will be operating within the law without fear of arrest.